Ah, the beauty of a Gee’s Bend quilt. Gee’s Bend is in Boykin, Alabama. The Alabama River has a large bend in Boykin which is the place of origin of the Gee’s bend quilts. The residents of Gee’s Bend are the descendants of slaves of the plantation started by Joseph Gee. I urge you to look up the story about the residents of Gee’s Bend and how they survived in this mostly isolated community. In the mid 60’s many of the residents were began taking the ferry to the county seat of Camden to register to vote. In reaction to this, local authorities eliminated the ferry service forcing the people of Gee’s Bend to drive more than an hour to conduct business. Ferry service was not restored to Gee’s bend until 2006.
The quilts were part of mid 1960’s Freedom Quilting Bee, part of the Civil Rights Movement. The purpose of the program was to assist families to increase their income by selling handcrafts to outsiders. Eventually outsiders began to really take notice of the quilts as the beautiful, unique artform that they were. They were on the cover of The New Yorker and them were placed on exhibition traveling about the country. The quilts were shown at many museums, including the Smithsonian.
What can you say about a Gee’s Bend quilt? Beautiful, minimalist, dramatic, simplistic, complex, raw, brilliant, abstract, modern, inspiring. Take a look at what was born from the isolation of a piece of land almost surrounded by water. Eight miles wide by five miles long. Approximately 750 people there today descended from slaves. From this tiny piece of land came forth a style of quilting like no other in the world.
Looking at a Gee’s bend quilt you can see the organic ature of the quilt. The pieces were cut with scissors or perhaps by tearing. No rotary cutter involved. I don’t know but I would guess that there were no patterns made for these quilts. They appear to have been instinctively improvised. What does this all say to me? It says that I can do whatever I want in my own quilt creations. I can put together whatever shapes, whatever colors I choose. I can just use whatever fabric I have, without buying new and coordinated. A Gee’s Bend says to me that there are no rules. I can do what I want. It doesn’t have to be straight and perfect to be beautiful. I can relax and enjoy the making of a quilt in my own way. My quilt can be like no other quilt in the world. So can yours. So if you choose to learn how to quilt, read, learn and absorb what you can from others while cultivating your own unique style.
So. Feel inspired yet?